Saturday, August 23, 2014

Agatha Christie paperback discovery

Greenway: Agatha Christie's own house on the River Dart. Just below the house, above the river, is the boathouse, scene of the crime in Dead Man’s Folly.

I'm in Canada, at Stratford, and the house where I'm staying has an extensive collection of old Christie paperbacks (25 cents price!). I just came across a story ("The Shadow on the Glass") which takes place at a house called Greenways. It's in The Mysterious Mr. Quin, a collection of stories. This might be one of those sleuths like Parker Pyne that didn't "catch". There's sort of a co-sleuth, an old society gentleman (one of her sort-of gay characters) Mr. Satterthwaite, whose gift is his ability to recall events in great detail and emotional realism: "a little bent, dried-up man with a peering face oddly elflike, and an intense and inordinate interest in other people's lives. All his life, so to speak, he had sat in the front row of the stalls watching the various dramas of human nature unfold before him. His role had always been that of the onlooker. Only now, wiht old age holding himi in its clutch, he found himself increasingly critical of the drama submitted to him. He demanded now something a little out of the common" (1). 

Mr. Satterthwaite is the narrator of the stories, and his friend Mr. Quin always happens by accidentally when there's a mystery afoot and figures out the significance of what Mr. S narrates.

I'm continually impressed with the ornate ease of Christie's prose. She's so much better a writer than I imagined-- another 20th C woman writing in the genres (actually, she created the genre :) and writing fluently, smoothly, even innovatively. Gee, could it be she's been discounted because she's a woman, and wrote a whole lot, and wrote stuff regular people liked to read? 

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